I just attended a fantastic event on vertical search at the Stanford - MIT Venture Lab (VLAB). This is the first of several posts driven out of my mad scribbling during the session, the highlight of which was Scott Rafer, recently of Feedster and now of Wireless Ink, among other things. I had heard Scott speak before (most notably at Sylvia Paull's CyberSalon with David Sifry and Doug Cutting) and somehow it had escaped my notice that in addition to being really goddamn smart, he has a fantastic sense of humor.
Anyway, one of the tidbits of insight that I am blogging from his talk is that you, as a vertical search entrepreneur, should know that Google-like search is a commodity, and that you should layer more goodness on top of it. If you are unclear that Google-like search is a commodity, and the existence of Lucene and Nutch does not persuade you, and further the existence of GigaBlast! on the backs of two grad students in friggin' New Mexico does not convince you, then perhaps this will:
Yes, the Google Search Appliance. The GoogleBox. Scott made the stunningly obvious observation (obvious only after he said it, of course) that you, as a vertical search startup, can almost certainly afford $30K for one of these, and should almost certainly point it against a targeted set of URLs for your vertical effort, as kind of a cheap base case get-to-parity move before you start stirring that secret sauce.
So get out your credit card, and it's off to the races!